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Meet an employee at IFA

Monthly contribution from Mette Sand Kalaee, laboratory technician AMS group

Photo: Mette Sand Kalaee
Photo: Mette Sand Kalaee

Briefly explain your path to IFA/AU. Where have you been before?

"It was not quite in the cards that I would be employed at IFA when I, at my upper secondary school leaving examination in physics, unfortunately failed the oral exam because of nerves. But back in late summer 2015, I decided that something new would happen, and I applied for the position as laboratory technician in the AMS group here at IFA and was in the same year permanently employed in October, a decision which I have not yet regretted. Chemistry has always been a great interest of mine, and as it was not possible to study to be a chemistry engineer here in Aarhus in the 90s, I chose to take the programme as a laboratory technician instead after a year at mathematics and computer science at AU. Back in 1996, I finished my degree programme as laboratory technician, and was immediately then employed at MLK East Jutland – which was later called the North Sea food region. I had nine educational years in which I gained extensive experience with many different chemical analyses of food products and worked with a wide range of chromatography. With curiosity and the desire to learn more, I applied for and was employed at the Danish Technological Institute in 2006, again as laboratory technician, and later in 2013 as a quality coordinator at the same site. Here, I gained extensive experience with quality management and methodological development in many different chemical analyses that ranged widely from the environment, the offshore, pharmaceutical and food industries. My path here to IFA has not been the direct path, but it has given me a good ballast and experience to solve my tasks as laboratory technician in the laboratory and as occupational health and safety representative with focus on chemical safety."


What was the basis for your choice of job?

"Imagine getting to work in Denmark's only carbon-14 dating laboratory...! When I saw the position as laboratory technician in the AMS group, I thought it would be really exciting to get the chance to become a part of the team and help to make carbon-14 dating, a completely different field than what I had previously worked on. The work in the laboratory is slightly different from what you have been used to as a chemistry laboratory technician, but still interesting and far from all days are the same. There are days and periods of routine work, but we are also working with development tasks and the possibility of alternation between the tasks is very nice now and then. In addition, the opportunity to work with different professional groups, students and with people from abroad is very fruitful and makes everyday work life even more exciting and fun."  


What is your most proud work achievement?

"As laboratory technician in the AMS group, we are involved in many different research projects across different subject areas, but one of the most recent research projects which I am proud to have been part of together with the others in the AMS group is the analysis results we have helped to provide for this article in Nature https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04240-5. In our group, we have helped improve the calibration curve by analysing the tree's wooden rings for the change of carbon-14 in the atmosphere, as well as analysing many of the archaeological finds from the Viking Age that have been excavated in Ribe, and thus get a more precise idea of when the Viking Age began."


Where is your favorite spot at IFA?

"One of my favorite places at IFA is, of course, the beautiful laboratories in the AMS group, situated on the third floor of building 1522. The laboratories are bright, attractive, welcoming and impress many guests when they visit. But, of course, there’s also the view on the 7th floor especially the city view towards the water side. The view on the water side is beautiful on a sunny day where you can see the whole of Mols, but also the view of the yellow roofs of AU is a great sight when you just take the time to enjoy the view on a busy day."


What do you do in your spare time?

"Those who know me very well will know that when I am off, I love to have yarn fibers between my fingers... I knit a lot when I get the chance, both because I love to be creative, but also because it helps to calm my head after a busy day at work, or if you have a little too much to think about. In my opinion, it’s meditative to knit, and I love to see how the different mesh constructions and color combinations change as the work progresses and finally becomes an attractive and useful product."